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Rapid technological change in materials science brings major challenges for industries that depend on successful interaction of new materials with colour pigments. A wide range of industries are affected - from paint, printing inks and plastics to hair dyeing, fashion and interior textile design. Thanks to Heriot-Watt University's expertise in traditional and specialist colour chemistry, nine blue-chip companies have achieved faster, greener and more cost-effective product development.

In industry, it is vital for efficiency and product optimisation that the pace of change within one area of manufacturing is matched by that within another if the two form ‘links in a chain’. So it is where products rely on the interaction of colourants and materials. Colour chemistry – the creation and control of colour – is critical to today’s design and manufacturing processes.

Led by Professor Robert Christie, Heriot-Watt researchers have been addressing challenges posed by new materials technologies across different sectors.

Within traditional colour chemistry, researchers have made notable progress in investigating the structural characteristics of pigments, which assist accurate prediction of how they will interact with materials. This has led to new approaches using ‘crystal engineering’ – computerised simulation to predict pigment performance based on crystal structure analysis – where Heriot-Watt’s expertise is unparalleled in Europe. It led to work with Dutch company Vlisco, in which researchers solved a problem in textile printing which no other approach could overcome.

Within specialist colour chemistry – developing novel dyes for niche applications – Heriot-Watt’s reputation for research with environmental benefit led to work with companies including Lenzing, world leader in cellulose-based fibre. Researchers have explored the potential for combining an environmentally-friendly colour-delivery method with Lenzing’s fabrics based on lyocell, a fibre with strong environmental credentials.

In such collaborative, innovative ways, Heriot-Watt researchers are advancing colour chemistry to keep pace with the extreme rate of change within materials technology.